Volume 11 Issue 5 January 2012
The Power Issue
VOLUME 11 ISSUE 5 JANUARY 2012
SARAH MICHELLE OGDEN
Powerless in Mind, Power in Spirit
Misconceptions JANET KWON
The Stream I Thought
The Other Side
Wednesday or Sunday
Wasn’t So Bad
What It Feels Like
W.C. FIELDS (1880 - 1946)
The Windsor Complex
Hell, I never vote for anybody. I always vote against.
NUNO TEIXEIRA EMMANUEL XERX JAVIER
EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief Morgan Alan
THE POWER ISSUE
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Staff Contributors Cristina Almudevar, Paul-Andre Betito, P.G. Gallant, Emily Holmes, Louise Lobb, Sara Stacey, Jessi Wood
CONTRIBUTORS Anonymous, Emily Bednarz, Alexis Castrogiovanni, David, Emmanuel Xerx Javier, Janet Kwon, Elena Mikhailova, Sarah Michelle Ogden, Nuno Teixeira, Kate Turner, Katey Walker
In most avenues of higher thought, we are bombarded with theories and propositions on the topic of power. This is especially true in academia, where there is no absence of cliched and over-used perspectives on this topic - power over versus power to, social influence, political power, authority, and endless others. As individual actors trapped in these broader structures of power, it seems impossible to affect real or meaningful social change. But it is individual acts, taking the form of sweeping regime change or small acts of resistance, that create a catalyst for reform. This issue explores multiple responses to power in all of its forms, from the politics of the Occupy movement (page 7), to a satire on the Apocalypse (page 14), to conquering a sexual assault (page 14). Whether used as a force to build or destroy, power is a topic inherent to all things. Morgan Alan Editor-in-Chief
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People who are the least likely to possess power have it, and those craving it so badly can only attempt to obtain it through corrupt means. So often, individuals haven’t any idea how much power they possess; it’s kind of tragic when that happens. Innocence is power.
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Misconceptions JANET KWON
“Let’s imagine power as the ink in a pen,” he said. Then, he asked, “Well, the power of greed makes you want to hoard your wealth, right?” We all nod in agreement. “So, then, you don’t write at all!” He cackled at his own genius. “You hold so much power this way, and should you want to use your ink, you could, right?! You could feel safe in knowing you held your ink! Right?!” We all smiled nervously, was he losing his grasp on reality? He was supposed to be a professor. “But we’re distorting reality! Don’t you see?” His smile was
gone; he looked disappointed. “By writing with your ink and pen, by letting go of what you thought you needed to hoard, you exhibit more power than you thought you could. You can even wield the power of the written word now!” He was almost shouting. “When none could see your ink before, suddenly everyone and anyone can read what you write, and your words can be remembered forever.” His eyes were shiny and wet. “Unlike the ink that sits in your pen, rotting away, your words go on to flourish in ways you never thought possible.” He was getting quiet now. The students were humbled by his passion.
What It Feels Like ALEXIS CASTROGIOVANNI The time never comes. It keeps sticking out its hand like it wants you to take it. It keeps reaching out, palm upwards And it stays there for so long that the sun carves its name into its skin And it gets third degree burns. The fingerprints and lines of fate and fortune Fall away They peel off like shards of dusted glass They descend peacefully like taffeta It stays there so long that birds shit on it and believe it is a statue They raise entire families Where some of the eggs are pushed away And shatter like good ideas on the ground Below The shadow is the eternal night-time of indigenous peoples. Where the gaps between the fingers let sun through, Fields grow. It stays there so long Like an uncle’s hand does, Always wanting to trick you into going for a high five. It begs to be held, But the time never comes Because as you reach out for the hand that has always been there, It lets you grab for nothing And watches you fall on the families, taffeta, feathers and farms. It reaches between its thighs in pleasure It evades the grime of someone else’s touch It avoids a child-like dependency It says dirty things in sign language, Like crude jokes and pornographic histories and racial slurs And all the indigenous peoples whose ears were deafened by the shatter of good ideas Understand And are silent in their suffering, Because their god turns out to be a real swine. They reach for one another in the new light of daytime And say with brusque and angry motions of their lobster-coloured arms: “I want the darkness back” But the daytime stays Unwelcome And the night-time stays Away And the time never comes.
ELENA MIKHAILOVA Many are familiar with the Occupy Wall Street movement that commenced in September 2011, three years after the recession in America that drained people’s savings, eradicated their job security, and rendered horrifying numbers of individuals homeless. The Occupy movement has been criticized as being unorganized; there is no official list of demands to combat the dismal economic climate of poor job creation, unbalanced tax laws, high student debt, a lack of democracy in politics, and many other factors that have contributed to the grave disparity between the masses and the elite. Throughout the movement, there are only two points of cohesion: a dislike of corporate greed, and the slogan “we are the 99%”. 99% seems like a significant number. We are taught from an early age that there is safety in numbers, power in numbers. Yet all the power seems to be concentrated in the top 1% of society – notably in the financial sector – who have arguably led the world to its present fiscal state with their increasingly risky behaviour. The 1% is thriving in a time where unemployment and high debt levels plague the majority of society. Financial professionals receive massive bonuses, while the taxpayers who bailed their companies out are struggling to avoid foreclosure, retain their savings, afford healthcare, and feed their families. How could such a power imbalance exist? The 1% preaches to the 99% that we “need” them and what they do is just too “complex” for us simple folk to comprehend – but do they not need us more? We provide the bank deposits they toy with, the money that is exchanged for their goods and services, the mortgages that they have gambled on. We far outweigh them in terms of voting power, though we cannot match corporations’ political contributions and lobbying influence – influence they have purchased using gains off of our indirect contributions to them. We have fuelled them, yet in the end we have received nothing more than high unemployment and low prospects for the future. The state of democracy in North America leaves much to be desired. Perhaps this is more fundamental to the global financial crisis than the financial sector, as politicians seem to have played their cards in a way that ensures that the common public would lose. The United States has seen the elimination of legislation – particularly the Glass-Steagall Act – that was put in place to protect the economy as a whole, in order to benefit one particular industry. Some probably watched in horror as the financial sector became increasingly deregulated, essentially letting big financial corporations make riskier and riskier decisions for the sake of profit. 99% is a significant number – especially if it is united and focused on holding corporations, and more importantly the government, accountable. It should represent the people, and last time I checked, banking institutions were not common names.
Powerless in Mind, Power in Spirit PAUL-ANDRE BETITO
If there is one idea that being a psychology student has forcefully implanted within me, it’s the notion that we are, at the root of it all, powerless. From psychoanalysis to behaviourism, cognitive to social psychology, it has been made generally apparent (humanistic theory excluded) that we do not dictate our behaviour. We seem to be the innocent victims of unconscious thoughts, conditioning, neurotransmitter levels, sensory processes and group influences. While the truth-value of these scientific discoveries must be praised, I believe that they are overemphasized and fail to grasp our potential for personal enlightenment. Some phenomenon cannot, and will not, be empirically deducible, yet denying their presence confines us to the mercy of [limited] scientific advancement, when what we require is a unifying release. As Winston Churchill put it, “the power of man has grown in every sphere, except over himself ”. If we were to put the influences that dictate the choices we make on a spectrum, we would find the basic, physiological and evolutionary influences at one end, and the social/environmental influences at the other end. What this spectrum fails to acknowledge are the choices that evade all influence, far out of the reaches of even the most fervent social system. Those are the choices that highlight the spiritual essence which lies dormant within each of us, awaiting its awakening. Choosing to seek out meditative thought, to critically analyze our behaviour (and what influences it), to reduce ourselves to our core ego in order to see how it truly commands us—these choices are within all of our grasps. Unfortunately, a majority finds contentment in ignorance, contentment in the acceptance of what everything is at face value. Perhaps the biggest difficulty in the ‘way of life’ I (and others) propose is that it threatens to disrupt the shields we have established to protect our fragility. By consciously breathing in life, analyzing it and striving to uncover its depths, our soul may never find contentment, but we must be willing to accept this suffering. To me, it is the most beautiful kind of suffering. When viewed in this spiritual context, the abuse and misuse of power that is ever visible to us is reduced to its true pitiable roots. Much of the misuse is the product of a select few human beings who displace the unconscious anxiety they have with themselves, as well as their anxiety over their spiritual poverty, onto others. We could find a multiplicity of such examples, from Conrad Black, to the UC Davis pepper spray debacle, to CREW’s Most Corrupt Members of Congress report, to the many absurd bills that are being passed through congress, and even to the Occupy protests. Capitalism is greed-driven, and greed is a human vice that must
“The Age of Reason has turned out to be the Age of Structure; a time when, in the absence of purpose, the drive for power as a value in itself has become the principal indicator of social approval. And the winning of power has become the measure of social merit.” – John Ralston Saul, ‘Voltaire’s Bastards’
be overcome, not accepted; this also ties in to the collapsing economic structures and the bureaucratic failure we see in most modern political systems. One man’s greed is enough to crumble a social fabric. The sadly-designed, morally-corrupt actions of the few are simple products of infantilism; where, in the face of questions that they are unable to answer, unknowns of the self that plague their minds like a rabid sickness, intellectual gaps that were never filled, they cling to their flawed beliefs like a mother, and behave where irreversible behaviour cannot fulfill the place of a true answer. When knowledge is accepted as power, wisdom will obtain, and things will fall into place. We may be powerless in changing what cognitively shapes us, but there is individual power in the awakening of the Spirit, and when the individual is strengthened, the collective will follow. While those most worthy of power rest listless in inaction, the ferociously power-hungry remain complacent in their thrones. In the words of Albert Camus, “all modern revolutions have ended in a reinforcement of the power of the State”. So it will continue to be. Regardless, inaction cannot be the answer. Is there an answer? It is a righteously complicated social issue best left for those with the competency to understand it. From my perspective, we -of the younger, Westernized generations- seem to overvalue the principles of ‘living in the present’ and future-deferment, ‘good feeling’ and ethicsbelittlement. This is just another petty outlet for rebellion; it is only a subtler, tamer version of anarchy. We must keep in mind what the wise, fictitious Stevo, from the film SLC Punk, once said: “there is no future in anarchy”. If this does not suffice to content the restless souls who live to struggle against the system, perhaps it would be better to remind them of another Stevo quote: “we can do a hell of a lot more damage in the system than outside of it.” Too play on my previous metaphor of ‘gazing upon a crowd’: in my [infrequent] meditative moments, when I gaze upon said crowd, I see that we mask an ineffable sadness. It is buried deep beneath compulsions, addictions and habits, religiosity and traditionalism, objects and social interaction, substances and more objects, denial and ignorance, fear and hatred, memories of what has existed and dreams of what will exist. We must come to soften our hearts and embrace this sadness with humility. It provides us with the perspective we need to truly see the beauty in life. In the end, you are the key and your spirit is the lock. That is the one true power that we all hold. In darkness, there is always a door that can be opened and a soul that can be illuminated.
The Stream I Thought P.G. GALLANT
I would cross the bridge every morning on the way to class. Often I’d look to the stream that ran underneath and stare at the ducks as they ate. But today I noticed something curious and unfamiliar. In a small cardboard box wedged between two rocks, was a stuffed animal. Peering out of the box, and directing it’s black, marble eyed gaze toward me, it waved. Confused, I carried on walking, and averted my glance to the sidewalk ahead. The little thing was there again the next day, but more eager, leaning out of the box and waving. I chose not to look away this time, and instead met it’s black marbled eyes with mine. It continued to wave, and I continued to walk. On the third day, it rained. When I crossed the bridge, I could see that the cardboard box was falling apart. The waving animal was absorbing water as well, and as the stream gained momentum and splashed into the box, it’s eager wave had been weighed down. I walked on and got to class, as an unsettling feeling started to absorb me. On the way home I decided that I would help the little thing, and so, carefully, I walked down to the muddy bank to pick it up. It looked at me with it’s black marbled eyes, and though it remained expressionless, I could sense it’s gratitude. Gently, I squeezed the water out of it’s heavy body, opened my bag, and placed it inside. When the rain had cleared up, the animal climbed out. Affectionately it wrapped it’s little arms around the back of my neck, before laying it’s head down to rest, and for the remainder of my journey home, I wore a silly grin.
The Other Side EMILY HOLMES
She woke up with a start, as the glare from a a streetlamp suddenly illuminated her room. She saw him sitting in the same chair facing her window. The light from the lamp created an orange glow around his body, and the falling snowflakes cast shadows on his face. She sat up in bed, letting the silence lay over them, as she waited for him to give an explanation. “You’re here later than usual,” she said. He apologized, and told her that he had a good reason for it. He wouldn’t elaborate. He continued to stare out at the street. Lights that shone from the apartments across the road lit up, and then dimmed, like a message sent in Morse code. Rubbing her eyes, she tried to rid herself of this powerful reoccurring memory. She stared at him in a stunned kind of stillness, while silently begging him to speak. She examined his face. To her, his eyes held immeasurable depth even from many feet away. Without warning, he rose from his chair. He slowly walked towards her door and opened it, motioning with a slight nod of his head and a smirk for her to follow. As she rose out of bed, something inside was screaming at her to stay put. She dismissed the internal warnings, and slipped quietly out the door after him. They stepped outside into the snow. The world was so silent that even her footsteps made no sound. She knew she should have felt cold all over, but it was only her toes and the tips of her fingertips that felt the bite of winter. The rest of her body reverberated warmth as she followed him into the darkness. Her footsteps became blended into the landscape, as the snow filled in the imprints within seconds. They found her car wrapped around a tree the next morning. Her history of sleepwalking was to blame, but her body was never found.
Wednesday or Sunday DAVID
It was Wednesday, according to the Gregorian calendar, and Sunday, according to the Roman. The weather was perfect, according to the weatherman, though “perfect” is a subjective viewpoint. It was sunny, with clouds and a light breeze. The perfect day for Jill’s garden party. Large circular white tables sat at the top of a little hill in an enormously large garden. Heavy cutlery and neatly folded napkins sat by ornate China plates, cups, teapots. Jill wore a frilly dress; her dogs wore similar frilly outfits. One of her dogs wandered around to the back of the house to a bush where, just a week ago, it has buried a bone. She hunted around for the exact spot, but found a snake instead. She growled at it. It hissed back and bit her. Three minutes later, after much hacking and spitting, and then whining and seizing, she was dead. Three steps from the bone. Back at the party, several hundred guests were discussing the latest in politics, art, fashion, philosophy, and the top forty music charts. Jill was looking for Jack. She scanned, with her hands like binoculars, across the tables, through the band, through the food, and spied him feasting on hors d’œuvres. She crept up to him, heels noiseless on the grass. “Hey,” she said. “Hey,” he mumbled. “How do you do?” “I’m great. How are you?” “Great,” replied Jack, then searched for something else to say. “Great party.” “I’ve got something to tell you.” Jack swallowed. “I’ve got something to show you,” he said excitedly. He could hardly contain his excitement. From his jacket pocket, he
produced a small box. It was brown with flecks of green. It smelled like roasted chestnuts. Jack swallowed. “I’ve got something to show you,” he said excitedly. He could hardly contain his excitement. From his jacket pocket, he produced a small box. It was brown with flecks of green. It smelled like roasted chestnuts. “I got this yesterday,” he said. “What’s it do?” “Oh it’s great. Look.” He opened it. It played Fur Elise in a music box kind of way. In the middle of the box sat a big red button. Jack grinned. “Isn’t it great?” “What’s that do?” asked Jill. “That’s the best part. That’s the apocalypse button,” said Jack. “Brings about the apocalypse?” “Yep,” he said and pushed it. The heavenly chorus sang Ha-lle-lujah! The sky ripped in two. Cats into three. Satellites dropped from orbit, slamming down into Earth at terrible speeds. Television sets lost reception. Radios spat out sounds of mewing cats. Every volcano continuously spat out molten lava, covering everything and everyone for miles in burning liquid. The earth’s crust ruptured. The light breeze went from zero to sixty, ruining hairstyles all over the world. A green-skinned, bearded man began flailing the screaming masses left and right. Garden tools sprang to life and began skewering guests. The band started playing Nearer, My God, to Thee. A man cried out, “The lord is upon us! Blessed is his holy name!” and was promptly perforated by flying forks and broken bits of a China teapot. Couples began having sex on the caviar. They muttered unintelligibly in their respective na-
tive tongues. A more conservative woman led a man away by the genitals into the house. Food reverted to their animal states. Bass emerged from a bassist. A violinist erupted in a shower of salmon which flopped around on stage. The instruments began playing the band, Yakety Sax. Up above, pilots flew their planes into other planes in brave demonstrations of World War Two Japanese kamikaze attacks. Chickens spilled out of overhead compartments. Passengers began herding other passengers out of the planes, who jumped willingly. A tremendous display of cooperation. Down below, children began singing It’s Raining Men. Hallelujah! sang the heavenly chorus. Buildings crumbled, sending wood, bricks, and steel girders flying in all directions. Birds fled in terror. Art lept off their canvasses and started sparring with their admirers in twodimensional space. An old woman wandered around with a sword in one hand, a severed head in the other. The snake under the bush behind Jill’s house found that he could speak again. It slid under Jill’s dead dog’s dress and coiled around it, hissing all the while. Jack and Jill leaned against each other under a table. “What was it you wanted to tell me?” “I love you.” “I’ve made a mess of things.” “I know.” “Do you still love me?” “Yes.” Then the planet lost gravity, zipping into the black of space, spilling buildings and salmon and chicken and caviar and people into the void.
Hell Yes LAKYN BARTON
I have seen evil, I have witnessed great despair. I have wept not only for myself, but for the fate of humanity. I have seen the breakdown of a family, I have felt the synthetic fibers and people that make up a courtroom. I have fought both systematic and institutionalized violence. I have felt agony and then nothing in a matter of seconds I have wept for my country. I have wept for my religion. I have wept for my friends. I have wept for my attacker. I have wept for passive victims and the internalized shame and guilt they must feel, but probably cannot openly discuss. I have wept on help-lines; I have wept to social services. I have wept to my friends. However, I did not weep in front of my rapist. I did not weep in court. I did not weep during my 5.5 hour cross-examination. I did not weep when the Defense Attorney asked me to put on my rapist’s sweater. I did not weep as my brothers sat and watched my 3.5 hour testimony. I did not weep as my attacker’s friends & family glared at me. I am not a passive victim of violence. I am not a victim, nor am I a survivor. I was surviving long before my attack and will survive long after. I know what happened to me; and I know who I am. I am 1% in Canada with a 10% chance of conviction. I am an upper-class, privileged white woman. I am your sister your friend cousin co-worker employee
I fought for my life and won. I have seen evil; I know evil.
And I have conquered the depths of humanity’s horror. power
CRISTINA ALMUDEVAR If someone is not satisfied with an outcome, they edit it. They will actively go out of their way to discover and eliminate the mistake. Though the art of editing is typically associated with the field of journalism and writing, it can be applied to human interaction or, in a laymanâ€™s term, our social life. We have all sat down and critically examined our group of friends, to determine who still fits in with the tone and structure of our life. Like a misspelled word, the ones who do not
make the cut are scratched out permanently in red ink. Having power is simply another means of control. Power over a situation, your body, or another person is naturally seductive, and ever forbidden. Getting the upper hand is a game that everyone plays, but no one admits to. It is the ultimate game of wit for those with a hunger and passion for the cerebral. People are inherently controlling. This is the dark, seedy underbelly of humanity that is rarely discussed.
The Windsor Complex DEVON BUTLER
My bitterly complicated relationship with America stems from growing up in Windsor, Ontario. Residing adjacent to a bridge from Detroit, I experienced their glorious shopping malls, lavish restaurants, and promise of opportunity. Yet I was also exposed to a reality which the majority of people neglect; complex and deep seated racial issues, poverty and, as Eminem portrayed, the wonders of 8 Mile. The universal idolization of America baffles me for this very reason. It’s a country divided by religious and political ideology, lacking quality education, employment, health care, and becoming progressively less informed about the world beyond its borders. Living out my impressionable years by the Detroit River, I was constantly bombarded by American culture, music, and television, while simultaneously being taught that anything Canadian-made must be of a lesser quality. My peers would criticize my love of Instant Star or listening to Billy Talent, and I had to keep my love of Canadian Idol under the strictest confidence of my closest friends. The consensus among my
It’s this imperialistic influence of American culture that puts tension on my relationship with America, and for that matter, the frustratingly close-minded people of Canada. I struggle to understand the negative stereotypes that determine anything made in Canada is unlikeable. peers was that Canadians simply lacked talent. I had hoped that when I moved further inland to Waterloo, the Canadian identity would be much more realized; regretfully the power of American culture rang just as strong as I fear it does all across Canada. Fear of the cultural invasion by the United States is legitimized by surveys, which find that only 37% of Canadians watch domestically produced television. In this month alone, the only Canadian-produced program to break the top 30 shows watched was the news. This fear sparks government involvement, and makes CanCon regulations and tax credits crucial to the preservation of the Canadian television industry. The problem with enforcing these laws, which stipulate that 60% of programming must be of domestic origin, is that producing shows for the sake of meeting content regulations can hinder the quality or audience-reception of a program. The primary hindrance however, is a cyclical process in which exposure to American programming leads Canadians
to identify with their popular culture; as a result, stigma is attached to Canadian television for not meeting expectations. Canadian programming tends to be more high-brow than most U.S content. With the rising interest in trashy American reality shows, how can George Stroumboulopoulos or Rick Mercer even dare to compete against the drunken tomfoolery of the Jersey Shore cast? Constant put-downs of Canadian culture unconsciously damage the perception of our own country. Ironically, a large portion of American produced films and television shows are filmed in Canada, written by Canadians, and feature Canadian actors. Castle’s two main actors both hold Canadian citizenships. It seems people don’t take issue with programs featuring Canadian talent, as long as they come from a country deemed more powerful, professional or talented. It’s this imperialistic influence of American culture that puts tension on my relationship with America, and for that matter, the frustratingly close-minded people of Canada. I struggle to understand the negative stereotypes that determine anything made in Canada is unlikeable. I was fortunate enough to have parents with an immense sense of nationalistic pride, who ensured I was exposed to a plethora of Canadian content regardless of where I grew up. With a family who once lived on the prairies, Corner Gas became a household favourite. As a child watching Mr. Dressup was a magical experience not to mention Fraggle Rock, Breaker High –the obvious turning point in Ryan Gosling’s career – Road to Avonlea and of course the critically acclaimed Degrassi. More recent programs like Being Erica and Little Mosque on the Prairie have been well-received and broadcasted internationally. Yet despite an increase in positive press and international reception, I overhear an overwhelming number of people laughing off anything shown on CBC. Even as I attempted to research this topic, comment boards and blogs were consumed by negative discussions and intellectual comments such as “Canadian TV sucks.” And so I struggle, feeling insignificant and unable to influence any change in the perceptions of the Canadian culture I hold so dear. I’m powerless to persuade decision-making processes to networks who avoid producing Canadian content as they are so often poorly received by the public and become nothing more than a company debt. The only course of action is to spread the word that Republic of Doyle is quickly becoming one of my favourite television series, and encourage others to support Canadian programming in the hopes that our Canadian identity overshadowed by the powerful American networks can find a way to prevail. Instead of criticizing an industry we are greatly uniformed about, we must begin to fund, support and improve Canadian television together.
SARAH MICHELLE OGDEN
While I waited at a red light, I saw him walking, a steady, but abrupt pace. One leg stiffer than the other. He wore the same leather jacket, the ring in his eye brow. His long black hair hung around a stoic face, a face that seemed hard. I recognized him instantly. A few weeks ago, we met at a rally in front of the children’s aid society. I asked him why he was there. “Judged unfit” he said, “Taken,” “No goodbyes.” He told me his child died in foster care. The most important thing taken from him, all he had left was the power to protest, to make them think they had not broken him yet. The masked vulnerability in his gait, in his solid gaze staring straight ahead, holding his coffee in a paper cup. Tears sprang to my eyes as I watched his walk. Trying to embody toughness, to show disinterest through his walk - but his entire being cracking with sorrow.
She was dancing after work, carefree, and with the great majority of her health intact. Every time she took a step, in the spirit of dance or otherwise, her boot would slip until she was again centered by the next step; which also slipped, on the snow and ice alike. She slid, awkwardly flailing and happily into each step she took, with the majority of her health intact. He pulled up in the parking lot, high beams screaming in blades through the snowfall, and parked next to her beside the curb. Disregarding the pile of slush under the passenger door, she climbed in. Her dancing ceased until it was otherwise convenient. She became tired and silent, a watcher of fellow midnight traffic. He opened his mouth for his mind to pour out the thoughts he has nobody else to tell. She affirmed affectionately, occasionally; he continued with wide eyes. In her head, she danced, with the majority of her health intact. The night continued with the tired wind-down of a closing restaurant. The driving stopped, the car parked, the door unlocked; she had a smoke by the garage and waited for something surreal to happen. He stood with her, unconcerned with anvils from heaven, and talked about things he understood. She glided on his tone; the sound, more than just paragraphs floating through space and cigarette smoke, lulling her into a calm acceptance. She flicked her cigarette into the frozen garden. He led them inside.
She fell asleep on his chest and the words of the television, her head swimming at the rise and fall of his breath. He lay there, filling his head, unconcerned with anvils from heaven. She was up before him for once, dressed and out the door. She lit her first smoke and let it mix with her minty mouth. She took in the wind on her face like breakfast, the nourishment in the cold sparking her awake, filling her with the urge to move. So she walked down the driveway, her back to the garage, and started to school with the majority of her health intact. The bottom of her boots were flat, smooth rubber; firm as a tire and slippery as a good liar. As she walked, she thought of homes far away. She twirled ideas she couldn’t manifest and facts she couldn’t change. She thought of all the things she wanted to say, and of her own voice; a shaky falsetto that cracked under stress and blew away with the winter winds. Every time she took a step, her boot would slip until she was again centered by the next step. She felt like she was dancing. She danced up the sidewalk towards the stoplights, and across the road, captured in her own glee. She danced right into the path of a moving bus. Its wheels had slipped on icy roads it wasn’t prepared for; they were firm as a tire and slippery as a life. He woke up and took a shower, unaware of anvils from heaven.
Wasn’t So Bad LOUISE LOBB
“Are you afraid to look me in the eyes, Clarisse?” Mr. Alex Rastenburg asked. He was too close to the truth. Clarisse silently begged him to stop. She knew she would lose everything if she gave in to him. “Well? Are you going to answer me?” He didn’t sound mad. Then what? Curious? Amused? That was far worse. Clarisse couldn’t bear to be teased. Especially by him. He could probably tell that she was nervous. What with her downcast head, fidgeting hands, and steady gaze on the cover of “Oliver Twist”. She remained silent, hoping he would get tired of her, and exasperatedly say, “Well Miss Gomez, maybe tomorrow you’ll be ready to talk.” Mr. Rastenburg sighed. “Let me help you out. This is a conversation, and it involves two people sharing their opinions on a topic. I can’t know what you’re thinking unless you look at me and tell me what you’re thinking.” Clarisse didn’t want to hurt him by being difficult. Who knew, she might be the end of a bad day for him? She swallowed, and slowly raised her head. Her grey eyes met his green ones. She could not look away; it was as if his eyes were magnets and forcing her eyes to stay on his. She didn’t see the green colour of Alex’s eyes; she saw a blackness coming out of his eyes reaching into her head, searching the thoughts and feelings she kept to herself. A blackness that sucked her in limb by limb, thought by thought, off of the chair she was sitting in. She had only guessed it would feel this way, and now she knew for sure. She could stay distant and self-reliant, but only if she didn’t have to look him in the eyes. Or she could please him and look at him when he talked to her. But one look in his eyes, and she knew she’d lost: she couldn’t lie to eyes that looked into her soul. Those eyes held a promise that both terrified and thrilled her: the potential of a life where she wouldn’t have to worry about being right or being strong. He would be her undoing. Mr. Rastenburg smiled, “There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
EMILY BEDNARZ This is what it looks like poised and perfect silent don’t breathe hold your breath A silent doe bleeds in the ditch tail still quivering a mournful tune in white Mom says this Dad says this Porn shows this “Just lie there until he’s done” You’re not to like it You’re not to talk about it This is supposed to disgust you this is disgusting
Play Time KATEY WALKER
Flakes of Tahiti Sunrise nail polish are stuck to the doll, miniscule orange shapes adorning the plastic locks. Late afternoon sunlight seeps through the blinds as Megan sits, playing with her favourite Barbie. Perfect blue eyes and a plump pink smile stare blankly, waiting for love. Dress me. Speak for me. Play with me. Megan knows her thoughts and wants to play so badly, but guilt overwhelms the poor girl. So many options and so little time. Setting the doll down gently, Megan stands and admires her room; her toys and no one else’s. There is the ceramic ballerina she received from mother for her 4th birthday, the dress-up chest, the kitchen set. A beat up looking cardboard box tucked away in Megan’s closet that once carried a shipment of Always Tampons now warehouses the rejected, forgotten train set. The freight cars, being too small to hold any doll, instantly disappointed Megan. The toys will have to commute in Barbie’s old jeep- dreams of new travel dashed. As always, Megan’s heart is set on the dolls. Perhaps they can hold a fashion show. Mother generously donated these items as a way of purging her closet of ill-received gifts and mementos from teenage years in what Megan has heard her call “The Eighties.” Donning fake pearls, neon resin bangles and a broach the size of her fist, Megan begins speaking gently under her breath to Janice, her prized Barbie. Only half aware of the outside world, Megan drifts into her imagination. “Oh you look just lovely today! I need a touch up, don’t you think?” Rifling through the chest she retrieves a cracked plastic case so often admired. Cheap smelling blush particles rise into the air as she opens the lid. Eyeshades of teal, peach, pink, plum and green obediently wait in line above the miniature lipsticks. Crumbling from use and smelling faintly of
talc, the lipsticks cry out to touch their owner’s lips. The air hangs heavily in Megan’s room with pieces of dust twinkling as it lazily floats higher and higher. The scent of a young girl’s childhood is in every empty space of Megan’s surroundings: in between curtain and wallpaper, among the china figurines lining the shelves, even on the train. Sequined pumps, far too large for the girl’s tiny feet are the finishing touch. With the dolls and stuffed animals having found their seats, Megan begins her premier down the cat walk. Wild applause greets her as she rounds the end heading back for the first wardrobe check; the bears, the trolls, the Polly Pockets all boisterously cheering and clapping. But something catches Megan’s eye. Alone, on the edge of her bed sits Janice, rigid and unmoved by the performance. Her blank smiling face no longer begs for love, or attention of any kind. She sits and stares through Megan, arms extended in a permanent “L” shape. Quiet surrounds her. Unable to comprehend this sudden change in attitude from her faithful companion, Megan stands, staring back into Janice’s eyes. A slightly downturned smile crosses the painted lips. Green eyelids change shape as Megan brings her eyebrows in closer, scrutinizing the moment. Janice is blond. Megan has mousey, brownish hair. Janice has blue eyes and Megan, ordinary, dull, grey. Janice has lovely, straight shiny hair and an abundance of perfectly moulded, inoffensive cleavage. Megan has not yet began to grow into the lovely young lady figure her mother has assured her will come in time. Peering down to her chest, chin tucked in, Megan frowns. She can feel the doll’s judgment and unwarranted criticism. Megan has been a good owner. She has never cut Janice’s hair or coloured a body part with marker or pen. She has never subjected Janice to a play date with the magnifying
There is a hesitance in the girl’s movements that wasn’t there before. Trolls throw their arms wide open, inviting Megan’s touch. The stuffed animals are less enthusiastic, slouching slightly, allowing the exhaustion from undivided attention get the better of them.
glass, or King Kong. She has never even decapitated Janice. So why the sudden change? Why the silent disapproval? The icy blue eyes penetrate Megan, silently exploring, studying and taking note. The light has faded to a weak grey hue. She turns from Janice to the still-loving smiles and wide eyes of her other toys. There is a hesitance in the girl’s movements that wasn’t there before. Trolls throw their arms wide open, inviting Megan’s touch. The stuffed animals are less enthusiastic, slouching slightly, allowing the exhaustion from undivided attention get the better of them. Megan’s mother calls from the kitchen telling the young girl to brush her teeth and get ready for bed. Meagan comes back in from wetting her toothbrush and hastily scrambles into her night clothes. She collects her dolls and unceremoniously dumps the glassy eyed creatures and plastic parted individuals onto her closet floor, shoving the door slightly against a bulging mass. If Megan felt a moment of awkwardness, a slight stirring of contempt or pity from Janice’s glare, it is quickly forgotten. After the nightly routine of story reading and tucking in, Megan allows her mind to relax. Her breathing is deep; her pulse slows and concentrates on resting. Adrift in a sea of thoughtless wonder and imagined glory the girl falls asleep. Something in the depths of Megan’s mind creeps forth, treading softly around the corners of her lobes; an electric pulse. It winds its way into her sleep, capturing her dream, molesting her peace. Megan’s eyes break open, her heart suddenly beating through to her throat and behind into her eyes. Mechanically, Megan rises from her bed, grabs a hold of Janice’s petite body crammed in between the mattress and headboard, and charges towards her door. If one were to ask Megan why she hurled the doll into
the hallway making Janice bounce off a small table holding displaced objects: a rubber band, a broken pair of glasses, she could not answer. If one asked the girl why she left her beloved Janice poised against a baseboard, legs scissor split, arms held out helplessly, she would not remember. Something from deep inside young Megan awoke that night, something as ancient as birth with the quiet strength of rebellion. Megan woke before her mother. The radio was silent, and the percolating hiss and dark scent of coffee brewing was absent. Quietly positioning a kitchen chair, Megan reached above her head and withdrew the battered tampons box. With some difficulty she hoisted it down to the floor and slid it across the room. Megan began unpacking the cars, tracks, stop signs and bridges. Her delicate fingers worked with fervour and grace that suggested this game was well practiced; a plot she had rehearsed a million times before. Soon Megan was cross legged, admiring her handiwork. A small grin brushed her lips. Megan turned, headed back to her treasure chest closet and rifled through. Megan watched Janice. Poor Janice. She was lying on her back, skirt suggestively tossed to her chin, hair tangled and ratty. Makeup was whorishly smeared on her lips and around her eyes. She began binding the doll’s arms and legs, hog-tie style. If only Janice had the foresight to calculate her actions of yester-night and redeem her good name. But it was too late. Already past the railroad crossing, and closing in on the bridge, the train came barrelling down. Janice stared up into the ceiling in those last moments, her eyes devoid of emotion, blank with shock. A brave smile stretched across her face, slightly mad. While the rumbling closed in and heat from the engine engulfed Janice, her last vision was that of unbrushed hair and a devilish smirk.
Volume 11 Issue 5 January 2012